Most couples today don’t put a whole lot of thought into their diet and lifestyle before they get pregnant. With around 50% of pregnancies being unplanned, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but what about the rest of us who are planning to conceive in the future?
The truth is that the health of both mom and dad before conception is almost more important than how the mother eats during pregnancy. This is because many nutrients are needed in the very early stages of pregnancy (sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant) that are critical for the fetus to develop properly.
For example, folate – one of the best known pregnancy nutrients, is needed to ensure proper development of the neural tube and to prevent spina bifida. What most women don’t know however, is that the neural tube is completely formed already by the 28th day of pregnancy! This means that folate in the diet or folic acid in supplements does nothing to prevent these malformations after the first 28 days.
Also, if your hormones aren’t balanced and working optimally, problems can arise with conception, development, and the ability to carry a baby to term. Hormones are delicate and take some time to rebalance properly – this is best done in the months or years leading up to pregnancy.
If one has an autoimmune disease or a thyroid disorder, these are issues that can dramatically affect a healthy pregnancy.
Nutrient deficiencies and toxic overload are issues that need time to correct, and especially if you do have a lot of toxins or excess weight – these are things that you absolutely should not deal with during pregnancy. When your body releases toxins they can travel easily across the placenta and harm baby, so it is best to do any detoxification regimen or weight loss prior to getting pregnant.
These are just some of the reasons why it is so important to prepare your body before you get pregnant.
This is not just a job for women, men also need to make sure they are in tip top shape, as they are contributing half of the DNA for baby. It takes approximately 90 days for sperm to completely regenerate itself, so a man should, at the very minimum, spend 3 months preparing. Ideally longer, as many nutrient deficiencies and toxin overloads take longer to correct in the body.
For women, it is a bit of a different story. The general idea is that the sooner you can start preparing, the better. This depends somewhat on your current health as well. If you eat mostly junk and processed food, are overweight or have preexisting health conditions, the more time you can give yourself, the better. If you are healthy and already eat a diet that is high in nutrients baby will need, then less time is probably needed.
In general, for the average person I’d say 1 year prior is probably your best bet. However, if you find yourself pregnant unexpectedly, don’t fret! It is never too late (or too early) to adopt healthy dietary principles.
So what exactly should you be doing and eating in this time? This is highly dependant on your personal state of health and nutrient stores. A couple things I can say for sure though, anything you shouldn’t do during pregnancy, you probably shouldn’t do before either. This includes drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking, eating junk food, not getting enough sleep.. etc.
Also take this time to fine-tune your diet and make sure you are getting all of the good baby-building nutrients like lots of healthy fats that are going to help build baby’s brain; the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; and folate. These nutrients will also help with fertility. See my article on why liver is so essential for fertility.
This is also a good time to learn about tracking your fertility, so that when it is time to start trying, you have a very good idea of what is going on in your body, if everything is working properly, and the exact days to try for conception.
Stay tuned for some exciting new resources coming soon about pre-conception diet plans for both mom and dad!
Are you planning a pregnancy soon? Is there anything you are curious about? Let us know in the comments below!